California uses controlled burns to reduce fire intensity

The claim: California starts its own fires and says they’re caused by climate change

A video of a flamethrower being used in a forest is circulating on social media, with some users claiming there is something fishy about the California wildfires.

“Apparently California is starting its own wildfires and blaming them for the effects of climate change!!!” says an Instagram post from October 17 that includes the video.

A similar iteration of the post was shared on Instagram by another user, receiving over 600 likes in three days.

“Sooooo THIS is our REAL climate change…understood,” the post read.

California officials have attributed the growing number of severe fires to climate change. But the claim that the fires are intentionally started is nonsense.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection uses controlled burns to reduce the intensity of fires, according to fire officials. There is no evidence in the posts that the state is deliberately setting dangerous fires and blaming them on climate change.

Social media users sharing the claim also provided no evidence to support the claim when contacted by USA TODAY.

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California uses prescribed burns as a technique to mitigate wildfires

The California Fire Agency deliberately sets fires to minimize the threat of destruction from accidental fires. That way, when there’s a vehicle collision, plane crash or other accident, there’s less “fuel” for the fire, Sacramento Fire Battalion Chief Issac Sanchez said.

After:Fighting fire with fire: Controlled burns remain essential as US wildfires escalate

“If it’s right for the situation, if it’s the right tool for the job (we’ll fire it),” Sanchez said. “If you refer specifically to large destructive fires – of course we won’t (start them). It’s obviously ridiculous on the face of it.”

The video in the post shows a directed burn, the California Fire Agency told Politifact in 2020. However, Sanchez was unable to identify the origin of the video.

It has, however, been the subject of misinformation for years. Some online users claimed the fire happened in Russia, while others incorrectly claimed it was a Chinese drone that started fires on the west coast. However, former California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokeswoman Lynne Tolmachoff, who is now retired, told PolitiFact that it was a flamethrower mounted on a helicopter in California.

A prescribed burn “mimics natural processes, restores fire to its historic role in wild land ecosystems, and provides significant fire hazard reduction benefits that improve public and firefighter safety,” according to the website. of the California Vegetation Management Program.

Our opinion: False

Based on our research, we rate the claim that California starts its own fires and claims they are caused by climate change FALSE. California uses controlled burns in some cases to mitigate wildfires, but there is no evidence that the state deliberately started dangerous fires and blamed them on climate change.

Our fact-checking sources:

  • Issac Sanchez, October 24, phone call with USA TODAY
  • PolitiFact, Oct 20, Video Shows Controlled Burning, Not Climate Change Hoax
  • California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, accessed October 24, Vegetation Management Program
  • USA TODAY, May 22, As Wildfires Threaten, Prescribed Burns Can Protect America’s Forests
  • California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, accessed October 25-26, Vegetation Management Program
  • PolitiFact, September 16, 2020, Twitter video does not show drone setting off west coast wildfires
  • USA TODAY, September 22, 2020, Fact Check: Western Canada and Mexico have also seen fires linked to climate change

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